Bryan Lee Johnston1

Johnston

A former Hillcrest High School teacher and coach will be released from prison after completing his rider program.

Bryan Johnston, 51, was sentenced in February to undergo treatment in the program after he pleaded guilty to first-degree stalking.

District Judge Joel Tingey ordered Johnston to serve four years of probation. The no-contact order between him and the victim remains intact, and Tingey said he could still impose the underlying sentence of 18 months to five years if Johnston attempts to contact the victim.

Johnston was arrested in September 2018 after months of stalking a former Hillcrest student. The two had an affair that started years after she graduated.

The stalking escalated after the relationship ended. Johnston enlisted current and former students in his attempts to contact the victim. He hid a recording device in her bedroom and urinated in her bed. The victim requested a civil protection order, which Johnston repeatedly violated, even after his first arrest in June 2018.

Johnston would appear at a coffee shop the victim frequented. He asked current and former students to check the license plates of any cars in her driveway and attempted to convince one former student to steal the victim’s cat.

In a bizarre letter written to the victim, Johnston posed as a woman who had arranged events to frame Johnston in a revenge plot and trick the victim into reporting him. The letter was signed “The Puppet Master.”

Defense Attorney John Cutler said Johnston’s rider program had been “exceptional.” Cutler said his client had never had to be disciplined and had worked to help other inmates through the program.

The victim gave a statement acknowledging the report on Johnston’s program showed a lot of progress.

“He is very good at making it sound and look very good,” the victim said.

She said she was still afraid Johnston retained his obsession with her and said he should not be placed on probation.

Bonneville County Assistant Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tanner Crowther did not take a stance on whether Johnston should be placed on probation. Crowther said the case was different from a typical rider program because of the extent of Johnston’s planning and manipulation.

Crowther also expressed concern about whether Johnston had moved on, citing a letter Johnston sent the judge mentioning her multiple times.

Johnston told the court he wanted no contact with the victim or her family and that he was aware of the harm he had caused.

Tingey said he did not doubt the victim was still afraid of Johnston but said Johnston’s progress in the program was enough to convince him to move him to probation.

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.